Why Americans Are Having an Emotional Reaction to Masks

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, easier read through than excerpted, but here is one bit:

When no one can see our countenances, we may behave differently. One study found that children wearing Halloween masks were more likely to break the rules and take more candy. The anonymity conferred by masks may be making it easier for protestors to knock down so many statues.

And indeed, people have long used masks to achieve a kind of plausible deniability. At Carnival festivities around the world people wear masks, and this seems to encourage greater revelry, drunkenness, and lewd behavior, traits also associated with masked balls. The mask creates another persona. You can act a little more outrageously, knowing that your town or village, a few days later, will regard that as “a different you.”

If we look to popular culture, mask-wearing is again associated with a kind of transgression. Batman, Robin and the Lone Ranger wear masks, not just to keep their true identities a secret, but to enable their “ordinary selves” to step into these larger-than-life roles.


The tension of current mask policy is that it reflects a desire for a more obedient, ordered society, for public health purposes above all, but at the same time it creates incentives and inclinations for non-conformity. That is true at least within the context of American culture, admittedly an outlier, both for its paranoia and for its infatuation with popular culture. As a society, our public mask-wearing is thus at war with its own emotional leanings, because it is packaging together a message based on both discipline and deviance.

What can we do to convince people that a mask-laden society, while it will feel weird and indeed be weird, can be made stable and beneficial through our own self-awareness?



Americans are self-absorbed, which is a reason America has been so economically successful. But what makes Americans economically successful, makes them vulnerable to coronavirus. How so? Wearing a mask doesn't protect the mask-wearer (unless it's an N-95 mask), it protects others from the mask-wearer. What self-absorbed American is willing to wear a mask? Duh.

Well, the current claim is that you can get it from an asymptomatic person. If you don't have the symptoms, why would you wear the mask?

If you don't have the symptoms, why would you wear the mask?

I wear a mask even though I don't have symptoms because (in no particular order): 1) I may have COVID-19, even without the symptoms, 2) I don't want to catch COVID-19, and pass it on to my parents who are (shockingly) even older than I am, and 3) because it sends a message that wearing masks is the thing to do. (Regarding #3, I think we could have been close to or even better than what has been accomplished in Japan, if we'd worn masks and used social distancing to the extent they do.)

A youGov poll showed that 90% of people in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan wore masks in February, only 65% of Japanese did, which rose to 76% in April. Australians were discouraged from wearing masks and about 25% did in April with the U.S. at 50% then. Nonetheless, Australia had around 100 Covid-19 deaths or about 100 times fewer than the U.S. on a per capita basis.


Thanks for the tip! That international mask-wearing data are gold!:


What is your take on why Australia is the way it is?

My guess is that Australia and New Zealand acted quickly at entry points and were able prevent many cases from entering but not sure.

As I've written here before, Japan and South Korea only had about 100 to 200 H1N1 deaths in 2009/10 compared to 8,000 to 18,000 that the U.S. had based on a CDC model. Australia also had only 100 H1N1 deaths yet if the model was used (or I assume a similar one - not sure) then Australia would have "really" had 1,400 H1N1 deaths and much closer to the U.S. 12,500 deaths usually quoted on a per capita basis.

Also, in the 1957/58 and 1968/69 pandemics, Japan had deaths in the low thousands compared to over 100,000 in the U.S. so three earlier cases of wide discrepancies in deaths.

For one thing, Australia has a premier (I think that's what Morrison is called) who is much like Trump with one enormous, and crucial, difference: he took the corona virus seriously as a medical problem.

Moreover, Australia had few H1N1 cases in 2009/10 as well. It is much easier keeping a virus mostly out of small population countries than the U.S. with major international hubs. It won't be clear for a while if Australia was successful or just lucky - maybe a combination of both.

Prime Minister: the individual states have Premiers. A handy convention.

Do masks work?
According to OSHA: A cloth masks cannot be used as substitutes for required PPE. Why not? Because studies of these kinds of masks have shown that they are 8% effective. That is they can remove 8% of the airborne virus and bacteria. The standard for filtering out dangerous pathogens is 99.9999% known as Sigma 6. In other words “masks don’t work!”

OSHA says these surgical masks don’t protect “against airborne transmissible infectious agents due to loose fit and lack of seal,” but they can “contain the wearer's respiratory droplets.” Basically, these masks are meant to protect others from the person wearing it.

Will Cloth masks dangerously reduce oxygen levels? USA TODAY fact checked whether masks can cause these kinds of symptoms, and found that both cloth and surgical masks are unlikely to cause a dangerous drop in oxygen intake because they are not tight fitting. However CDC representative told Reuters that “CO2 will slowly build up in the mask over time. Symptoms could include a headache, but Reuters reported “it is unlikely that wearing a mask will cause hypercapnia,” or excessive carbon dioxide buildup in the bloodstream. Still, the CDC says: “Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.” Both the CDC and OSHA recommended laundering cloth masks after each use.

The standard for filtering out dangerous pathogens is 99.9999% known as Sigma 6.

There isn't a (non positive-pressure) mask in the world that even comes close to 99.9999% effectiveness, especially when considering the fit of the mask. N95 means guaranteed 95% removal efficiency (for 0.3 micrometer particles, which are generally the most difficult to filter).

Exactly. That is why masks don't work.

Viruses are .003-.3 microns in diameter.

Except that isn’t how masks work - and they do work or many more healthcare workers would have died. The virus doesn’t fly thru the air by itself-it is in a droplet and therefore it is much larger than an isolated virus-furthermore masks also work by electrostatics.

Exactly. That is why masks don't work.

Viruses are .003-.3 microns in diameter.

If masks don't work, even N-95 masks, why don't all doctors treating COVID-19 patients develop COVID-19?

A better question: I have been out and about for 3 months without a mask - shopping, shopping, shopping. Why haven't I developed Covid-19? Also, EVERY DEATH is currently listed as a Covid-19 death! The answer may just be that the lies we are told about the Covid-19 numbers are only are not Covid-19. They may be those caused by natural/accidental/other illnesses such as heart attacks, cancer, etc. We will never know the reality since the records seem to be bogus.
My feeling is that those who want to feel better wearing one whether it works or not should wear one and those who don't believe all the nonsense should not. Also note that the major focus on finding a cure is so far turning out to be more than ridiculous. One of the so-called trial cures Remdesivir will cost the government hundreds of thousands for curing 1 person!!!
It is said that several of the individual 'experts' have a financial interest in such a "cure" coming to fruition. If a cure is never found, is the populace supposed to wear them forever? Wake up people-- it is a people control tool and we are the lab rats! This is a ploy to lead us toward one world government.

None of us in Australia and NZ had an issue with going into lockdown for months on end and our governments were actually competent in ramping up testing as well mandating quarantine for all incoming arrivals so we've never actually gotten into position where we need to wear masks for that to be useful...

You guys have no idea what kind of joke you are to the rest of the world at this stage.

I am sure we do appear to be a joke to the rest of the world. That is because they read or listen to our MSM who have all adopted socialism/communism and are trying to destroy, along with the Democrats, us from within. But we have that unfortunate constitution that is making it really difficult for them. Unlike some countries where their leader can simple take all your weapons on a whim.

I've seen that claim around but it has to be heavily discounted for contradicting multiple documented accounts of asymptomatic transmission as well as logic and common sense. If asymptomatic people do not transmit the virus, why has just about every country in the world except for New Zealand failed to stamp out community transmission? This thing would have been nipped in the bud in March if there were no asymptomatic transmission.

I think we can distinguish several types of asymptomatic people.
1- testing RT-PCR positive but not symptomatic yet. will become symptomatic later, contagious ~ 2 days before symptom onset on average
2- testing RT-PCR positive but never develops symptoms , not contagious for long. Doesn't sneeze or expectorate. weaker transmitter.
3- not testing positive, but briefly infected, never symptomatic but has developed a quick T Cell response. .perhaps has encountered a lower dose. probably never contagious. These are the people like the “contacts” in the T cell immunity paper Tyler linked to on June 26. Not seropositive, Doesn’t develop antibodies

Only New Zealand, lol.

Taiwan, Vietnam. lol.

The below post by Bahner beat me to it. It is not binary. Every little bit helps, and unless the mask-wearer becomes careless for the very reason of wearing a mask (see the protests), the practice is helpful, and the helpful effect is compounded by the proportion of people wearing them.

Wearing a mask doesn't protect the mask-wearer (unless it's an N-95 mask),...

No, it's not binary. It's a continuum. And it depends not just on the mask itself, but also--perhaps even more--on the fit of the mask.

P.S. And then throw in whether the wearer also wears a face shield and/or balaclava in addition to the mask. (I'm not aware of any country where members of the general public wear face shields and/or balaclavas in addition to masks, but it's certainly something that could be done.)

So if the question is, "What will provide protection for the wearer, and what will provide protection to others from the wearer?" The short answer is: "It depends. It's complicated."

Isn't it easy enough to present as a win-win?

If two random people meet, and one is wearing a mask, that reduces transmission.

If two random people meet, and they're both wearing masks, that reduces transmission more.

Win-win. A voluntary partnership between strangers.

Isn't it easy enough to present as a win-win?

Yes, it's easy, but not necessarily accurate. ("It depends. It's complicated.") :-)

It was either on this blog, or the Econlog blog, or perhaps both, that I linked to two U.S. Republican senators "elbow bumping" after some event. One had on a mask whose details and fit I don't remember well, but the other had on essentially a hankerchief like a 1900s TV bankrobber would wear in the movies or on TV.

So is that a "win-win", that they both had masks?

Well, one needs to consider than the hankerchief provides virtually no protection for either. On the continuum, that's almost as close to wearing nothing as possible.

And are they sitting so close that they can "elbow bump" because they think their masks "protect" them? That is, would they make sure they were farther apart if they didn't have masks? Or even arrange some sort of remote attendance?

But...again, in general, I agree. (In general, I like to argue. ;-))

The are supposed to think (maybe you think wrongly) that their mask will protect the other person, and maybe them too, a little bit.

Protect you a little bit! What that means scientifically is that instead of inhaling a billion virus you only inhale a million. But tests have shown that on average you only need 7 virus to catch the disease. So statistically it appears you are protected a little bit but it is meaningless. Would a doctor or scientist go into a ward full of highly contagious people wearing only a cloth mask for protection? If not, why not?

But tests have shown that on average you only need 7 virus to catch the disease.

Do you have a link for those tests?

The Hong Kong Hamster study had 3 conclusions:
1- masks were significantly protective when worn by the infected
2- mask were less protective but still protecting when worn by the naive subjects
3- subjects infected despite wearing masks showed a milder disease than controls, indicating masks lowered the virus dose incurred.


"Wearing a mask doesn't protect the mask-wearer"

This is almost certainly false. It may not be 100% protective, but indications are that it is protective. However, early on the media (both left and right) took up the cry that masks didn't do any good, and might even help spread the virus. Then the framing became overtly political, and we were off to the races.

"It may not be 100% protective, but indications are that it is protective"

Which is irrelevant. Mandating everybody stay at home and shooting anybody onsite that leaves their house is protective too. So is mandating quarter mile social distancing and forcing every building in America to install automatic touchless doors, toilets, faucets, etc along with rules "if you touch a item for sale, you have to buy each item you touched".

It became political the first second ANYBODY advocated we should authorize the state to kill people for not wearing whatever fashion accessory of the moment some bureaucrat felt did something on personal whim.

Who advocated death for non compliance ?

Any non-compliance with any legislation will ultimately escalate to your legal death at the hand of the state hence yeah anybody who advocates mandatory mask wearing is advocating death for non compliance. It's why folk like Eric Gardner are dead for selling loose cigarettes.

People don't like to think about that but ALL legislation no matter how innocent is backed by that implicit threat.

Any non-compliance with any legislation will ultimately escalate to your legal death at the hand of the state

This is ridiculous.

And yet it's fact though sure I'm listening. Find me a single piece of legislation with enforceable sanctions that precludes enforceability via escalation. Once again, Eric Gardner was executed for selling loose cigarettes. I spent four days in jail once for going eleven mph over the speed limit. Had I resisted that, the state would happily escalated that to my death.

But I'm all ears man.

How about anything punishable only by fine? If you get arrested for resisting or not paying your fine, that's separate from the original offense.

Ah yes the good old Texas defense of heterosexual marriage "You weren't arrested for being gay, you were arrested for the gender neutral act of sodomy". Ah and Eric Gardner just killed himself.

You pay the fine because refusal to pay the fine starts an escalation that results in your death by the state no matter how petty the violation ergo the punishment for any legislation is capital and that is the implicit threat hence why people pay those fines. Pretending otherwise is simply not acknowledging the reality of sovereignty.

EVERY SINGLE LAW ever written contains the loss of freedom as an implicit threat. It may start as a simple $20 fine, but backing that up - at the end of a series of escalations - is the threat of the loss of freedom - for as long as the state sees fit. In other words, if they choose to do so, they can leave you there until you die.

Remember the lady in Dallas who was arrested and jailed for opening her salon during the "lockdown"? She wasn't even arrested for breaking a law. Why? Because there was no law to break. The prosecutor knew this, so they went to a judge and got a restraining order. When she violated that, she was arrested for contempt of court - a charge solely enforced at the discretion of a judge which means they can put you in jail for a very long time with your only recourse being a higher court granting relief.

The original common law definition of "arrest" meant having your freedom to move IN ANY WAY interrupted by the state or a representative of the state.

This used to require a lot of jumping through hoops on the part of the state - swearing on bibles and testimony and warrants and such.

Today? Not so much.

Masks are not a great imposition on liberty , nor are they that costly to economic activity.
It's a good effective compromise.

That is a subjective claim with no basis in objective fact. On the flip side we have a right under the that whole pesky Constitution to liberty. Even if you want to apply the misguided SCOTUS "strict scrutiny" concept, those mandating "least restrictive method possible" should be required to objectively prove it.

And who knew liberty had an objective scoring system based on you. I guess chattel slavery wasn't that great an imposition on liberty either whereas ending it was a costly economic activity, the thoughts of the slaves on that matter be damned.

Peter bro, you are one of the rare White males who get it. Most Caucasians aren't aware that It's OK in America that white cops can kill black men who never did anything wrong, for no reason. They are debating whether to extend that privilege (white privilege, obviously) to all white people, so they can kill or claim as their personal property, any black person. Personally I believe that is not OK. The war against Black People must stop NOW! and generous reparations MUST by paid immediately. Moral clarity can not be permitted to be ignored. Silence is complicity. Complicity is murder. Murderers must be cancelled. Patrisse for POTUS!
By the way, I am not insane, not really insane. I'm simply very morally clear. The end justifies the means, after all.

"A friend who lives in Thailand wrote me this: The mask and mutual respect is why Thailand with 70 million citizens has only lost 58 to covid.

Think about that. Mutual respect. Doing what's right for the common good."


The motivation for wearing a questionably effective (e.g., cloth) mask is altruism. Probably the loyal readers would agree that a more compelling case could be made for wearing effective (i.e., N95) masks based on self-interest.

The value to the economy of sufficient N95 masks would justify governments offering a lot of money to get them. So where are the charts and frequent updates (a la vaccine candidates) showing worldwide, national, statewide N95 availability? Despite the apparent lack of interest in this pursuit, it seems as though effective masks are slowly becoming available.

Is there an understanding that once people can get these, then there is no longer any need for the hand-wringing about getting people to wear other masks for the benefit of others and that they can decide or not to wear effective masks for their own benefit?

> And indeed, people have long used masks to achieve a kind of plausible deniability. At Carnival festivities around the world people wear masks, and this seems to encourage greater revelry, drunkenness, and lewd behavior, traits also associated with masked balls. The mask creates another persona. You can act a little more outrageously, knowing that your town or village, a few days later, will regard that as “a different you.”

The book *Impro* has a very long section about mask work, i.e. improvised acting where one participant wears a mask and should improve "as the mask", and how people feel themselves taking on the mask's "personality". Those masks are typically complete faces rather than just coverings, but I recall one salient feature of obscuring one's own face was the (felt) opportunity to go ahead and re-define one's status more freely.

Hey, I did that same exercise in a Whittier College drama class in Sept. 1974. It was a full face mask where you could actually alter the expression of the mask through your facial expressions--through your acting. It is one of my key memories from Whittier College.

It begins at the top with the President and Vice President. Had President Trump started wearing masks on his various visits and even during some of the TV events his loyal faithful would have done the same thing.

Probably not. They likely know the pres and those around him get tested regularly. Security theater does no one nay good. Wear the mask when appropriate, and there are many cases where it is, but not when it does no good. I still see idiots who wear masks while diving alone, or idiots who don't when going into a doctor's office. Stupid doesn't help anyone.

Doesn't it begin with our esteemed government agencies telling everyone not to wear masks?

Which they still do because they understand it's all just a feel good measure against competing priorities which they actually care more about. Whenever any law passes directed at the general public with exceptions it's understood that at that point whatever the public stated reason for passing that law is is false.

??? Huh? If there's anyone who doesn't know wearing masks saves lives that's a huge problem.

The fact they save a life or not is irrelevant. Banning stairs will save lives, etc. None of the legislation around masks has anything to do with saving lives.

Trump made it political. Didn't have to be, shouldn't be. Sure, mostly stupid people follow Trump, but we have a lot of stupid people here. No other President would have done that, and as a result wearing masks would not be controversial at all. And of course nearly every other GOP politician is craven.

How did Trump make it political?

Don't be a moron, even the WHO and CDC suggest masks are only effective if the wearer is sick AND symptomatic.

The problem is a certain segment of the population who considers it their dog-given right to ignore the harm they cause others.

Your problem in this article, of course, is phrasing that in a way that doesn't turn off all the people in your camp who feel that way.

Do you have a dog-given right to drive a car? Because you driving a car necessarily makes the town you live in less safe than if you walked.

Should you have the right to put me at risk be driving?

100% of car crashes are caused by people driving in cars. What gives you the right to ignore that harm?

Our so-called leaders have betrayed and abandoned us. Trump's Administration is an outrage that makes the Founding Fathers spin in their exalted graves. That is not what my father fought in 'Nam for. I am glad he is not here anymore to see what is happening to our country.

Thiago, free advice:

Nobody outside of Hollywood calls it Nam, and proud children of veterans do not go around saying “I’m so glad my Dad is dead “

Be better.

1) That is a common mistake. 'Nam is a very acceptable way to refer to the famous Southeast Asia country:

2) My father would have chosen death over dishonour every single time.

don't let the *asstards get you down
Arthur(Art) is an under-rated aka.
did you see the latest leftist racial hoax/wreckoning at maceys
the victim was wearing a mask but the assailant was not.
we bet you wont read about it in the newwoketimes.con


How would your father have felt about you using U.K. spelling? Couldn't resist.

That is nothing dishonourable in writing "dishonour". Adtually, there is good reason to believe the English variants are more elegant.

That is nothing dishonourable in writing "dishonour". Adtually, there is good reason to believe the English variants are much more elegant.

No, it isn't. I don't need to give a google link. I live in Vietnam. Nam is not an acceptable way to refer to this country.

Unless you ascribe to the "It doesn't matter what the fuck the people live there think, we can call it anything we want" theory of naming things.

Imagine if it was not a mask, and it was some other small behavioral change. Do you really think the reaction would be any different?

I think "you're not the boss of me" would prevail either way.

Indeed it does seem that risky behavior, when it happens, is across broad spectrums. The person who doesn't wear a mask also goes to restaurants and also goes to the crowded beach.

That's the way it was for my family in Texas, right up until last week, when their favorite restaurant closed because of coronavirus cases and they got a wake up call. I don't know if I'll actually start wearing masks, but they're talking about it.

Dollars to donuts the person who doesn't wear a mask spends more (non-work) time outside their home than the one who does.

Oops. "I don't know if they'll actually start wearing masks, but they're talking about it."

That said, an essay meandering on the themes and meanings of masks was fine.

I just don't think that's the main operating principle here.

our local texas mayor was quoted as saying "wear a damn mask"

That is very good and I applaud him.

after you are done applauding
wash your hands

Is it possible to create a similar path with with masks as say something like the seatbelt? We all know its uncomfortable, wrinkles your clothes, limits your range of motion(kind of the point of the seatbelt), however can potentially save your life or prevent you from irreversible injury.
It's not likely that you will die in a collision (1/77), but it's possible. Is there a "I'm too good of a driver" ignorance with seatbelts as there is with masks? I assume most people choose to wear seatbelts, but it cant be because of the small fine associated...I guess i'm confused too. Looking forward to reading the comments on this.

I think the key difference in the mask seat belt, or hand washing divide is that a mask is an inconvenience mostly to protect others from you.

Seat belts don't hide your facial expressions or intentions. While asking his people to wear masks, the PM of Austria said "masks are alien to our culture." A little bit of sympathy for the people of whom you're asking a sacrifice goes a long way.

I'm trying to understand what sacrifice you are talking about. The inability to express your inner emotions when checking out at the grocery?

Masks hide your expression, smile because people refuse to do a few minutes of work to come up with two ideas on solutions.

Since circa 1980, Americans have been increasingly told to never think, never invent, never innovate, unless getting a government monopoly that makes you a multimillionaire.

I can see meat, bread, in packages keeping out germs, air, cars outside my house, so it's clear it's possible to create as sterile barrier t let's me see through a mask.

Guess what, others have figured it out an published their dozens, hundreds, of solutions on the web for everyone to use.

I disagree with your statement that the smile-hiding aspect of masks makes interactions hostile and alienating. I haven't felt that at all. I can tell when someone is smiling or has a friendly expression behind a mask, and I'm not a particularly sensitive or insightful person. Maybe it's the eyes, or the body language - who knows - but to me it's obvious.

Smiles are hidden because innovation is blocked by someone.

I think its Trump or fear of Trump attacking anyone who manufactures masks with a window to show your smile because Trump hates people wearing mask for the greater good.

When I asked Tyler why there was no innovation in PPEs, masks in particular, and jin manufacturing them, hde suggested too high wages, so i guess CEOs building innovative start-ups are paid too much, along wjith inventors. I suggest capping wages for CEOs and inventors at $20 an hour so venture capital will fund ten times the number of startups inventing and delivering very comfortable, very stylish masks, with windows to reveal all. Even better will be stylish revealing PPEs.

Non-US citizens seem to figure out how to put windows in masks:

prefer politicians not wear masks when speaking to the public as it prevents us from seeing their fairly obvious & reproducible "tells"

Early on the coronavirus reaction ended up being split into right/left camps. The left maximized concern, while the right minimized it.

For the right, wearing a mask is effectively acknowledging that you were wrong about the risk of covid-19. For the left, the mask is an ornament of political triumph.

Right wingers may think it is best to leave off the mask and not deal with the mental conflict that will result.

Political conflicts are inevitable, but it would be nice if we renormalized once results were in.

What results, you shit?

You were bleating about 1+% of the population dying months ago.

You were proven completely wrong, you shit. You scum. And yet you imply you were "proven" correct. You are shit.

Say the words: "I was, and I still am, a fear monger. I am a shit human. I suck."

Maybe, maybe we will start listening to you after that.

Respectfully: fuck you.

Maybe that was a different anonymous.

I would never give a fixed prediction because there are too many variables.

Yeah I am no fan of this guy's comments in general but I don't think what you are saying is correct. Now if we had done nothing, would we see a million deaths? We may well see 200,000 official deaths as-is.

"wearing a mask is effectively acknowledging that you were wrong about the risk of covid-19"

How's that?

"The left maximized concern, while the right minimized it."

Utterly false, and and part of the reason some people resist the current "comply with what I demand now" insistence is the "forget that I ever thought differently" corollary.

At the critical junction, when the science solidified that masks were good, the Republicans did not have to paint themselves into this corner:

"Down the street from Bryan’s shop in Roseville, used-car salesman Robbie Bray said he knows why people in Sacramento are more likely to follow the governor’s directive: They embrace “more of a liberal Democrat lifestyle.”"


As epidemiologist Michael Osterholm devoted an hour podcast to, the science hasn't solidified that masks are good. Transcript:


As I read it, I don't see an argument against masks. I see an argument against cloth masks.

I can certainly accept that cloth masks are not as good as medical grade masks. I just don't think that's a good reason to wait.

Let's all start wearing masks now, and then start wearing better masks as we get our hands on them.

From the 2015 study that Osterholm mentioned:

"Laboratory tests showed the penetration of particles through the cloth masks to be very high (97%) compared with medical masks (44%) (used in trial) and 3M 9320 N95 (<0.01%), 3M Vflex 9105 N95 (0.1%)."

44% penetration for surgical masks seems very high and not close to N95 masks.

The evidence is that surgical masks do indeed reduce virus shedding in people infected with coronaviruses: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-020-0843-2

Osterholm is a reliable source of information and I trust his judgment on cloth -- not surgical masks -- is accurate based on current information.

Osterholm wasn't at all a reliable source of information in April when he wrongly said several times that coronavirus was "getting away" in all East Asian countries after some imaginary relaxation of restrictions.

The Nature study was put together by several post docs who have this one paper to their name or an extra, supervised by someone with a PhD in "medical statistics".

It's actually possible that the study indicates surgical masks help although 44% of particulates still get through. Seems like a high number.

44% getting through and traveling at low velocity for a foot or two is far better than no mask and 50% traveling 4+ feet..

If people where masks at stay 4+feet apart, then the terrible mask will stop 90+% of infections, by my swag.

Also, the virus needs to get through two masks to reach nasal passages which see the ideal culture medium, plus several feet of air at a loser velocity than between two people with no masks.

As an engineer who had to deal with reliability, we depended on many defenses that cause harm. No system that depended on a single defense against error/fault is reliable.

"It's actually possible that the study indicates surgical masks help although 44% of particulates still get through."

Again, are we talking about protecting the wearer or the people around the wearer? The study I cited shows it probably protects people around the wearer and accords with about 100 years of common practice in medicine. The info you cite shows that surgical masks also offer some protection for the wearer. 44% is a lot better than 0% if your aim is to flatten the curve of infections. And if surgical mask-wearers are surrounded by fellow mask-wearers, the probability of transmission could wind up being extremely small based on the evidence we have today.

I'm not suggesting that anything about Covid knowledge is a slam dunk. I'm only suggesting that the fact that mask wearing seems to correlate so strongly with political orientation means that behavior isn't exactly being driven by data, on either side.

Not true. And that's the whole point.

If there is a scientific answer you don't get to "both sides" it.

Masks work, and the best masks work best.

So why don't you rational heroes demand massive mobilization to produce good masks?

What would Spock do?

I think you and I are having a misunderstanding somewhere. I didn't claim you go to 'both sides' to get a scientific answer. I also agree that masks work (where "work" is defined to be some reduction in spreading the virus - it doesn't have to be 100% effective to "work").

My point is that the vast majority of people who choose to wear/not wear a mask are not making a rational decision, they are simply showing their tribal affiliation.

+1; the US media has had a big problem on remaining authoritative on this as they've larged abdicated role as opinion free, prediction free repeaters of STEM community, and that STEM community itself has begun to abdicate its role as a politics free institution (which we see with these statements like mathematicians not working with police; epidemiologists signing off letters that actually protests are a-OK; bending the knee to sign diversity commitments; etc.)

To some small degree - and a much smaller degree and a much more marginal level than stated by hyper-partisans who treat Republican voters with digust and loathing - that then leads to the devolution of some of the measures into being treated as mistrusted, politicised advice.

This is still a fairly marginal problem - all the survey data has found that realy difference with compliance is very small on a population level, simply because most people are not that partisan and not that attentive to media and not that locked in on specific partisan messages.

The idea that there is large scale lack of compliance for political reasons is simply going to be wrong, and advice based strategies for increasing social distancing would largely have worked just as well in the US as they work everywhere else.

The general weakness or strength on the media on cv19 is probably more important (e.g. did they forget about it and the importance of social distance for about 3 weeks while talking about protests or did they not?)

But there is an issue nonetheless.

It starts with outgroup homogeneity fallacy and moves on to “Boo Outgroup!”

Frankly, I think this is the kind of pseudo-psychological nonsense that Tyler would sneer at if it came out of any psychology or sociology department. Masks were politicized from the start. If they'd have been widely available for both the public and health care workers, if it had been widely recognized from early on that they were very useful, and if the authorities and leading politicians had embraced them, we'd likely see a vastly different situation in the US.

Even now, many on the left can't acknowledge that there was a shortage of PPE because China bought up world supplies before acknowledging the virus. No one else is going to de-politicize if you don't. Whatever stance Trump took on masks would have been weaponized against him.

China didn't buy up the world supply of PPE before they acknowledged the virus. And everyone knows there was a shortage of hospital-grade PPE in the early days. The media on both the left and the right both initially mocked the usefulness of mask wearing. There was the mistaken belief that only N95 masks were useful, and must be reserved only for front-line healthcare workers. This was fairly quickly shown to not be the case, and even when public health experts began touting the usefulness of the general public wearing simple surgical masks and cloth masks, Trump and Pence mocked the idea.

Trump weaponized mask wearing at the point when studies were indicating that it was a highly effective way of lowering the effective R. It wasn't the other way around. And the idea that Trump does anything because he's afraid a bad decision will be used against him is counter to every single thing he has ever done in his life. Against good medical advice, for example, he continued to proclaim hydroxychloroquine as a wonder drug that he was taking himself. And he continued, even as he was being laughed at by the world at large. Do you really think that bothers him? It clearly doesn't.

In any event, my comment was about Tyler's playing public psychoanalyst about the unconscious dynamics of mask wearing.

this is b.s.
"China didn't buy up the world supply of PPE before they acknowledged the virus."
china bought up a lotta austrailians ppe before they acknowledged the virus

And that's why wearing masks is politicized in the US? I mean, Tyler wrote an article about the supposed underlying American psychological ambivalence with respect to the general concept of wearing masks. And some people want to talk about China (where most PPE is manufactured) glomming onto PPE back in January? OK, fine, way to miss the point of both Tyler's article and my comment.

nice non sequitar
we didn't say that was the reason masks are politicied.
we said china did buy a lotta aussie ppe while misinforming the u.s.
about the virus. that is a pretty big point

There are many reports of private Chinese on line buying services essentially buying all masks they could for resale in China before there was any official announcement of human to human spread. While this wasn’t directed by the Chinese government it shows that private Chinese citizens suspected they were being lied to and began to stockpile PPE themselves. This only worsened the PPE shortage b/c it added to the actions by the Chinese government to acquire PPE.

Good point, and who cares about anyone but him or herself? Sheep, I guess. Plus, who cares about a stupid virus that could leave you sick for...months?

A lot of things can leave you sick for months. Fortunately that doesn't occupy either of our mental resources, as it's statistically extremely unlikely. Sheep.

I spent part of last week with my evangelical Christian family members. They brought up mask-wearing (none of them do), and they all agreed that mask-wearing evidenced an absence of faith. I spoke up and pointed out that mask-wearing isn't to protect the wearer, but to protect others from the mask-wearer. They were nonplused. I suppose I could have mentioned that mask-wearing would be the Christian thing to do, to protect thy neighbor and all. But I held my tongue. What I've learned is that ignorance is at the heart of questions like the one Cowen addresses in this blog post, what I would describe as willful ignorance.

I think you get the social dynamic, but we should assist the science communication on that.


For minimum exposure you need masks on sender and receiver.

Every opinion expressed by experts on this subject (does the mask protect the wearer) is opaque, I would say intentionally so. Does the mask protect the mask wearer? Yes: if everyone wore a mask it would protect the mask wearer. The refusal to accept the obvious says volumes about self-absorbed Americans: Americans act like adolescents and have to be treated like adolescents.

The thing is, it’s only that latter case that all you crybabies care about. You say “do it for others” but by others, you mean yourself. You’re not wearing your pussmask because you care about me. Al of your posts are dripping with contempt for people like me. Americans.

So it’s your selfishness vs my selfishness. My liberty vs your fear of the sniffles.


Uhhh, what? Wearing a mask to protect others is selfish because you have contempt for other people? Even if it is true that a mask wearer has contempt for others, it is no less selfless to wear a mask to protect those for whom you have contempt.

But, I give myself roughly a 20% chance of having understood your point.

Every opinion expressed by experts on this subject (does the mask protect the wearer) is opaque, I would say intentionally so.

In this case, experts are opaque because the subject is complicated. Protection depends on: 1) type of mask, 2) fit of mask, and 3) situation (e.g. is some infected person coughing from 3 feet away right in your face?).

It's wrong to oversimplify if the oversimplification can cause significant damage (e.g. saying a mask is protective, and then people pay no attention to the fit of the mask or the situations they get in).

Or maybe they should have responded that social distances works even better and yet there you were. What was that about willful ignorance? Or since we like to selectively misquote bible verses, wasn't there something about casting the first stone.

There are more premature deaths in Scotland than in the whole of Europe due to coronavirus. Yet nothing is done. Covid is an emotional crisis of a depressed middle-age professional class.

Overthinking it by many of you. When to wear it? There's a sign in the park here that says it best: "when unable to practice social distancing, please wear a mask". It's plainly stupid to suggest we always wear a mask in all situations and many people sense that. No other reason.

More binary thinking. Words like 'all' and 'always' are dangerous arguments.

Last Saturday I drove 800 miles, about 10x the chance of death* than from covid in my state. People often have emotional reactions to things, but maybe quantifying the risk can help.

*Lot more actually, I'm early 50s so will have a smaller chance of death from covid than the average suggests.

It's not just about the risk, it's also about the benefit. The risk of death in an automobile accident for those 800 miles was probably pretty low overall, but I'll bet you still wore a seat-belt, as wearing a seat-belt is a low-cost way to mitigate a lot of the risk. Abstaining from the trip overall was probably too costly, so you didn't do that.

It's not necessarily about how big the risk of covid is, it's about how easily you can mitigate what risk there is.

It's also about how big the risk is to you, *and all the people you will infect if you get it*.

US driving fatalities are roughly 10 per billion miles, so your 800 miles represent a 1 in 125,000 chance of dying. Not sure what state you're in, but US-wide COVID-19 has killed off roughly 6000 45-54s out of 41M, or one in 7,000. So it's not negligible, but your odds of dying of COVID-19 are still 18 times higher than from your long ride.

The stat I got was 1.25 per 100 million miles, or 1 per 80. You drive 80 miles and it's one in a million, or the same as my state per day. 800 /80 = 10.

Mask-wearing is “weird” behavior, and many conservatives don’t like “weird” behavior. Also, many men are self-conscious about looking like sissies. A family I know went to a small-town grocery store with masks on and people yelled “pussies” at them. It’s too much like middle school, and most people — men especially — won’t face down the social stigma.

I read a similar explanation for why men will throw their trash on the street instead of in the bin. Because they feel it's a low status thing to do.

most sanitaryworkers/trashmen are men pick up pretty most everbody elses trash.

For money.

why shouldn't men be paid for picking up other peoples trash

They should. They should also not throw their trash in the street.

I’m struggling to find our disagreement, help please.

you "read" that men "perceive" it is a "low status thing" to throw trash
in a trash bin.

Actually, Uair01 posted that comment.

Nonetheless, the fact that some men accept the job of picking up trash in return for money does not contradict the idea that men generally perceive it as a low-status practice. It may just mean that they accept the low status in return for the (generally quite decent) salaries.

ok. why do women litter

Plenty of reasons. I'm sure men litter for plenty of reasons too, but OP was pointing to one factor that could explain why men litter at a rate in excess of women, not that it was the sole explanation of littering.

If op is right (and I have no idea either way), then you'd expect men to litter more than women (their shared reasoning drives similar levels of littering, then male-specific reasons drive more beyond that), and you'd expect similar differences between men and women for mask wearing.

Where was this ?

Pacific coast of Washington State. Get outside Seattle and it's a pretty red state.

The real sissies are the men who are afraid of strangers calling them pussies. Man up.

Most people don't like weird behaviour, and group conformity tends to be about as prominent in liberal or conservative subsets. So not a useful explanation.

Freedom does not mean individual sovereignty. Freedom allows
one to join groups - church, bowling league, KKK. What some
politicians need to tell us, over and over again, is that that freedom is not
sovereignty, and we must necessarily join another group, the community.
The days of cheap freedom as Isaiah Berlin's negative freedom - the right to be left alone - are past. Lincoln said we were engaged in a great civil war, testing whether a nation so conceived can long survive. We are now engaged in a great international experiment, testing whether that same nation can ignore the responsibilities of freedom as conceived by Aristotle, Christianity, Madison or Mill. The opportunity for freedom necessarily requires consideration of others. New Zealand could do it. They have a democracy. Most of the EU has been able to control the virus as well. Why does make America great mean expose our stupidity?

Freedom without accountability encourages chaos, libertine behavior, false prophets, and confidence scams.

I decided a few years ago to stop posting anonymously, which is the online equivalent to wearing a mask. This is in part because it makes me hesitate before posting stupid or insulting things, which is always a temptation. I also try to live my life in public the way I would like the public to treat me (I would like everyone to post with full names and traceable IDs). This is somewhat quixotic, but it's one way to try to be a better person.

Masks and anonymous posting tend to bring out the worst in everyone. Nothing I've seen on this, relatively civil, site has changed that opinion.

In our defense, anyone sensible has Stage 3 Cabin Fever at this point. I know I do.

you might change you mind after you have been doxed/wreckoned.
now for sum good news
Oscar "Night Train" Peterson gonna get a Canadian train station named after him

I think mask wearing has unfortunately become part of the "culture war." Some conservatives are rejecting mask-wearing merely to stick it to the left, or to just show their non-nonchalant disapproval of covid policy over all.

One of my emotional responses to mask wearing (by others) consists of the conflict in interpretation erupting when I see photographs of people wearing masks poorly--their mouths commonly are covered, but their noses commonly are not. (No doubt this style commends itself to a sense of uninhibited respiration.) The message I get (running with Tyler's cue of the association of masks with carnivals) is that wearing masks during this pandemic is not being taken with requisite seriousness, even by all people who wear masks.

Ovbiously, many people who do take the threats of SARS-CoV-2 seriously (too seriously?) will be all geared up for any social occasion, and perhaps they'll properly don nicely patterned or decorated designer masks--thereby sending less-than-fully serious signals in the process. (Tyler's posted excerpts, at least, leave out the phenomenon of "mask as fashion or status statement".)

I ordered my first supply of masks only yesterday, and not the N-95 masks I'd prefer. After ordering from the retailer, I thought to call a local retail medical supply store: they have not carried N-95 masks since late last year or at least since February and they don't see any sign that such masks will be becoming available any time soon.

This is too much Freud for my taste. I think Americans (specially conservatives) don't like it because it feels like an imposition. Is it silly? Yes. But in a world where so much has gone out of control, conservatives tend to try to find something within their reach to draw a line. In this case it is an unfortunate choice, but that is the world we live in.

There is the utilitarian value of wearing a mask, protection of the wearer and those the wearer finds in the proximity. There is also the signaling value of wearing a mask, much more highly valued by those obsessed with symbols and what we now call narrative, than with the health and welfare effects.

Because of a family member with a rare autoimmune disease we have practiced some degree of social distancing for years, and our rural and small town life does not include elevators or subways or prolonged contact with dense crowds of people. These days even church is sparsely attended, compare to a couple of decades ago.

I only wear a mask upon entering a store or medical center where the mask is required, there simply is no useful reason to wear one the vast majority of the time. A few garden club ladies, avid NPR listeners, volunteer at the neighbor's farm, doing their chores twenty feet apart. Except for me, they are the only souls on a hundred twenty acres, and they plant and weed in the hot sun and stiff breezes with masks on. Utterly inappropriate in the circumstances, except for the virtue signalling. It's crazy, the social and legal emphasis of masks at all times just undermines one's respect for the sorry state of our institutions.

Searching Alabama and masks shows that...
"Masks or face coverings are required in all public places in Birmingham effective May 1".

Search Texas..."A few cities and counties in the Lone Star State are making it a requirement to wear masks or face coverings while in public places".

Search Pennsylvania..."Governor Tom Wolf today reminded Pennsylvanians that mask-wearing is required when entering any business in all counties in the state".

AL, TX, PA were just my "random" choices. What is common among these 3 examples is that the requirement applies broadly. There is no recognition of the circumstances or locations. Contrast this with the province of Ontario where the mask recommendation is for health care facilities, public transit, and smaller groceries and smaller pharmacies. It may be that if the mask requirements were adjusted for the particular locations there would be less controversy.

"Except for me, they are the only souls on a hundred twenty acres, and they plant and weed in the hot sun and stiff breezes with masks on."

Do some measurements with an optical particle counter (used for clean rooms). You'll be shocked at the shockingly large amounts of airborne particulates given off by routine tasks.

With gardening, I could easily envision how wearing a mask would reduce inhaled pollen and (probably more importantly) inhaled microbes in and on soil particles.

Sometimes the old wives' tales contain a bit of truth. :-)

most Americans are not just loud, lazy & entitled

Tyler's analysis is way too subtle. Just find out who the anti-mask people are. I would bet that a vast majority of them are loyal Trump supporters (even though Trump supporters are in the minority). And why are they against masks? The answer is that the great leader doesn't wear one because he has minimized the problem all along and he also does not want to appear weak by wearing one.

Another anti mask group, with some but not complete overlap with the Trump supporters, are those religious nuts who believe it is god's decision whether they will get covid-19.

Ah yes, all those BLM marching Turmp supporters. Or maybe get out into those Democratic strongholds of white trash trailer parks, non-white public housing projects, Asian neighborhoods, etc and take a look around. Or maybe move beyond social virtue signaling venues (i.e. stores) and to where the virus is actually being spreak, families, neighbors, and friends.

I live in Hawaii, the most Democratic state in the America. Nearly every case we have here is people getting it from graduation parties, block parties, weekly "family" barbeques, etc. Same people that are all about masks and wear them to Safeway invite their fifty cousins over every night for block parties. Quit blaming Trump here. People are social by nature and the poorer you are, the more likely you are to both be a Democratic voter and completely not care in the slightest about mask wearing. I can tell you the druggies I know whom all hate Trump and vote Democrat have no problems getting together nightly to snort meth with each other and share straws. I can tell you all the Democratic Progressive sex workers I know (and their patrons) have no problem not wearing masks nor social distancing this entire time. But yeah Trump lol.

What happens when a sheep wears a mask:


Wearing masks has a cost. They are uncomfortable for many, if not most. The discomfort increases, for almost all, with exertion.

Almost all articles, this one included, do not acknowledge this. This helps move this topic into the culture wars.

Further the benefits, so far as we know are primary borne not by the wearer, who is bearing the cost, but rather by others. Further this benefit is from a model is which is, clearly, unclear.

This is a classic left position: bear some cost for some unclear benefit for others.

And we wonder why this is part of the culture wars? Insanity.

That the media (the author included) do not acknowledge these issues reeks of doublethink, this inflames the culture war aspect.

Cut it out.

"This is a classic left position: bear some cost for some unclear benefit for others."

Could be applied even more so to people who volunteered to serve in Iraq (since it wasn't just "some" cost). Outside of Randism, there is no basis for the idea that civic duty or undergoing relatively minor inconvenience to help one's neighbors in a time of crisis is "left wing." I see the mask recommendation as a hail mary pass to try to stave off community transmission and save lives more than anything. What else should places like Houston or L.A. do at the moment?

re: Iraq. Of course, PNAC was, and is, stupid. Full stop.

If this is a hail mary pass to "save lives", say so. "We have no idea what we are doing. We have no idea if this will save lives, but some people think it might, they have no idea how many. But we are ordering you, at gun point, to put on masks". This is honest. No double speak.

+100. This. A few other points:

1. These other things where sacrifice is required for the common good... what is their track record? Why believe this time is different?
2. The benefit of masks was said not to be there at the beginning, then it was there to shame Floridians, then was not there for GF protests and riots, and is now back again. And the GFR is LOW for most people. Why would you expect ANYBODY to believe the current guidance, especially those from the other tribe?
3. If covid truly is terrible, how great to infect all those mask wearers in Whole Foods by not wearing one (you’ll likely be ok anyway, and you’ll show their masks didn't help). If covid isn’t bad, then mask wearing doesn’t really matter and not only do the Whole Foods people look stupid, they’re also being driven batshit crazy by your lack of compliance.

Thinking about this further makes all the complaining seem even more ridiculous:
4. The mask wearers are also signaling a vaccine is far away at best, and possibly not achievable. Latest I’ve heard is a vaccine may offer diminishing immunity over 3-4months, at which point, you’re vulnerable again. If I’m destined to get the bug, why wear a mask to delay the inevitable? Hospitals are not overflowing (yet) and a lot of gains have been made in how docs are treating this thing. Yes, perhaps treatments might improve further, but this is most likely a cold, right?
5. When one has blind faith in science and a notion of finite mortality with nothing more, I can see how they’d be scared shitless over this thing. Some jokes were made up-thread about “dogs will be done”, but seriously, if I’m destined to get this thing and slated to be an unlucky one... what else would you call it? I could see how a belief in a higher power, given the design of the virus, makes one more comfortable waiting for death before wearing a shroud, rather than proactively wearing one in Whole Foods until the inevitable happens.

Only N95 masks, which are basically not available, are uncomfortable. A cloth mask or surgical mask, which is what everyone is wearing, is not uncomfortable. Furthermore, you only need to wear it for brief periods of time when you are inside a public place like a grocery store. Hence, it is a de minimus imposition, like being asked to wash your hands after you go to the bathroom or to wear a seatbelt so that your body doesn't go careening around the vehicle killing everyone. Heck a seatbelt is probably a bigger imposition.

Fuck you for saying something which is clearly not comfortable to most "is not uncomfortable".

Respectfully: please die.

I am disappointed in mask power. I mistakenly thought nearly everyone wearing masks, as they do where I live, could hardly fail to be associated with a diminishing number of cases. It's the opposite.

How about the mask advocates define the limiting principles and what the actual goals are, because practically no one is going to be wearing masks for more than a few months no matter how hard you push the matter- I don't give a flying fuck if COVID-19 is the black death.

You can add lots of NALYs with a lot of different kinds of impositions, so where is the fucking line drawn?

A mask is a sign of fear and submission. I think many wear them because they think they are magic charms that guarantee that they won't get sick. I just came back from my dentist in NE NJ and I felt like I was going back to PA two months ago, when people seemed furtive and fearful.

"A mask is a sign of fear and submission. "

Huh? Isn't it a sign of common decency that you don't want to infect other people with a deadly virus??

"no one is going to be wearing masks for more than a few months no matter how hard you push the matter- I don't give a flying fuck if COVID-19 is the black death."

Why? I genuinely do not get it. I've been doing it for months already and it's typically for a few minutes every week or two, maybe a whole hour if I go crazy and buy groceries in the store instead of having them delivered. Are we talking about people who wear them at work all day long? That might not be super fun, but can employers really take on the liability of allowing people not to wear masks?

I don't know why I am going to waste my time, but here goes.

You are hiding your house 24/7 by your own damned comment. Even you won't be doing that by the end of the year, and when you aren't spending just a few minutes every week or two somewhere else, you won't be wearing the mask either.

Most of us are away somewhere else, even now, several hours a day- that is why the mask use is so low- it is simply too fucking annoying to wear them more than a few minutes at a time. Their use will go down rapidly, as exactly they have already. And I note that you don't even answer my questions- what are the limits what can be imposed to "protect others"? What is the fucking goal here? What would allow you to come out your hole without a mask? Is this rule to applied to everyone? Until you can answer that, you can take your mask and your bullshit and stuff it up your pristine asshole.

Gee, as an MD I thought we were highly compensated due to our years of training-but by your logic it is b/c I wear a mask all day. I guess I should get an increase now b/c I also have to wear an N95 or P100 mask as well and they are way more uncomfortable.

I don’t understand the goal of mask wearing for anyone under 60. Is it to slow down the spread? What is that going to accomplish? We’re all going to get the COVID. Why put it off.

I don’t understand the goal of mask wearing for anyone under 60. Is it to slow down the spread? What is that going to accomplish? We’re all going to get the COVID. Why put it off.

There isn't even one country in the entire world where anywhere near "all" have COVID-19. In fact, the U.S. is leading the world in total cases, and we're not even to 1 percent of the population with COVID-19.

But even if we were "all going to get it"...it would be helpful to people over 60 if people who were going to get it would not get it until there is a vaccine available for those people over 60.

...because practically no one is going to be wearing masks for more than a few months no matter how hard you push the matter- I don't give a flying fuck if COVID-19 is the black death.

Ummm...you might want to read more about the death toll from the Black Death.

If COVID-19 killed 40 million people in the U.S. per year for each of the next four years, not only would everyone have *masks*, everyone would likely be wearing positive air pressure respirators.


From Twitter. Another explanation:

I've worked in retail for 20 years. Y'all setting the bar way too high for a society that will regularly take shits in dressing rooms and leave used diapers stuck to walls. Just saying. #WearADamnMask


> What can we do to convince people that a mask-laden society, while it will feel weird and indeed be weird, can be made stable and beneficial through our own self-awareness?

Can we make reasonably effective masks that are semi-transparent?

Can you make masks that don’t smear women’s makeup? Can you make masks that don’t irritate teenager’s acne? Can you make a mask that doesn’t look like a bathing suit bottom? Can you make a mask that will cure Covid or do anything other than slow the spread? You’ll forget it it once. Or the strap will break. But we’re all getting Covid. Best to give up the fantasy masking will make a difference. This thing is not contained and not containable under US political constraints.

From Baudrillard's, 'America'

"they certainly do smile at you here, though neither from courtesy,
nor from an effort to charm.[...]The smile of immunity,the smile of advertising: ‘This country is good. I am good. We are the best’. It is
also Reagan’s smile - the culmination of the self-satisfaction of the entire American nation - which is on the way to becoming the sole principle ofgovernment. An autoprophetic smile, like all signs in advertising. Smile and others will smile back. Smile to show how transparent, how candid you are. Smile if you have nothing to say. Most of all, do not hide the fact you have nothing to say nor your total indifference to others. Let this emptiness, this profound indifference shine out spontaneously in your smile. Give your emptiness and indifference to others, light up your face with the zero degree of joy and pleasure, smile, smile, smile. . . Americans may have no
identity, but they do have wonderful teeth."

Nobody can smile through a mask.

Flew through Portland and Seattle on Tuesday, the first time in 3 months.

Wore a mask the entire time. It was weird and kind of anxiety inducing at first, but after a few hours, it became like wearing a hat. You barely noticed it anymore.

Jump in, you get used to it pretty quickly.

To echo Reason, above, this lays bare the divide between thems that sit and thems that work. Doctors wear them in the OR all the time, someone will respond. Sure, and maybe that's one of the dozens of reasons doctors are so well-paid.

I will add that the only people who haven't been wearing them in the nearby grocery, are the pharmacists. Someone must have complained, because I saw they had donned masks for the first time yesterday.

I hear plenty of complaints about masks from "thems that sit". They just need to get over it and put them on. No excuse.

"thems that work" may need other accommodations to help make up for any impracticality of any situation, and employers need to be held accountable to make that happen.

Ad hominem's do nothing to improve the situation.

A group of the biggest complainers about accommodating employees to reduce spread I heard was from local large farms in NW Oregon. Helping workers keep distance, providing masks, not so tight living quarters for migrants. Too costly! Not Practical! On and on. Where have a good percentage of Oregon's cases come from? Those workers. My wife has made hundreds of masks for these workers because they weren't being provided. Few migrant workers carry a sewing machine along with them as they travel up and down the west coast.

I meant nothing personal, and am not clever enough for that line: I only failed to be convinced by the example, sitting in an airplane and being propelled through the air, free to doze or daydream.

After Tulsa it's incredible that Trump still has 38% support

Why Americans Are Having an Emotional Reaction to Masks

Psychologically normal human beings have a strong instinct to look at faces and imagine the minds behind them. We enjoy doing this. P-zombies can't understand this, and are reduced to analytical interpretation of resistance to masks via "studies." Beep boop why doesn't human maximize utility?

Well apparently only Americans are psychologically normal and all other nationalities are psychologically abnormal, I guess? I don't have a burning desire to stare into the inner souls of people I cross paths with in public places indoor, but I must be a p-zombie.

Most other nationalities probably feel the same aversion, but they overcome it if they live in high-trust societies where people think more about protecting each other.

Their society believes in the germ theory of disease.

Someone set up a prize for a clear mask that works. Remove the disinhibition hurdle from the equation at least.

Why [So Many] Americans Are Having an Emotional Reaction to Masks

Because the percentage of complete idiots in the US is higher than in other countries.

You need to travel more....

And exactly what would you have had him do my friend given 99.9% of the authority to actual do something is on the State governors and municipal executives. TDS once again.

Sorry, that was in response to another poster complaining about Trump. Didn't nest correctly. If mods see, feel free to remove these two posts as contextually makes no sense.

At the risk of reigniting a commentary section that was slowing ... A lot of the patriots commenting here might agree with the phrase "freedom isn't free." True. One of the ways it is not free is that it requires some responsibility. As I posted before, freedom does not mean individual sovereignty. Freedom allows one to join groups - church, bowling league, KKK. We must necessarily join another group, the community. The days of cheap freedom as Isaiah Berlin's negative freedom - the right to be left alone - are past. Lincoln said we were engaged in a great civil war, testing whether a nation so conceived can long survive. We are now engaged in a great international experiment, testing whether that same nation can ignore the responsibilities of freedom as conceived by Aristotle, Christianity, Madison or Mill. The opportunity for freedom necessarily requires consideration of others. New Zealand could do it. They have a democracy. Most of the EU has been able to control the virus as well. What is there about masks, distancing, and testing that is contra Aristotle, Jesus, Madison or Mill?

I must have missed the part where Jesus advocated the Jews should get together and petition Caesar to kill other Jews who disagreed with their particular favorite pardes. Which Gospel verse was that again?

Well put Bill. But it goes so against the libertarian principles on display in this blog and commenters.

I disagree that personal responsibility to your community is against any libertarian principles, but I know for some people it is hard to hold in your head simultaneously the ideas that government is wrong to compel, and that people are ethically obligated to act. Yet it is so.

Wow Americans don't care about about safeguarding US society writ large more than individual risk. What a novel observation.

I don't agree with the anti-mask nutters. But sometimes those advocating some nationwide policy for the "common good" are probably short sided or loaded with unintended consequences given the failure of the elites now and in '68.

The implied narrative is that these are trailer park Trump voters but CA rates and support for nationwide protests from the left and some scientific elite disprove that thesis.

If the policy was such that masks that meet a certain standard are required, then OK. But we're at this stupid point where you can wear anything you want--even a bandanna. Most masks people are wearing are completely ineffective on particles below 100um in size. Aerosols are particles usually 5 to 10 um in size.

In order for a mask to work, it needs to be comprised of many layers of material, each with unique properties. You can't buy them on Etsy. They are not made by your friends daughter who is working on a girl scouts badge.

What Pelosi wears doesn't stop the transmission of anything. Amazon has much better masks for sale that have met US safety standards, ready for delivery tomorrow. Pelosi would rather wear a designer mask that does nothing.

She is no different than the redneck.

Can you point to the masks on Amazon? I wasn't able to find any that were certified, but got some triple-layer ones that "look" right. I was very frustrated by the complete lack of any good guidance readily available online for finding masks that were actually effective and available.

A decent link on masks:

Tyler trying too hard to be clever here, and missing the forest, as well as most of the trees.

Suppose, just suppose, that Trump had not made a show of not wearing a mask, and instead had made forceful statements urging mask-wearing.

Would we even be having this discussion? No. The "emotional reaction" is a desire to align oneself with Trump, even at the cost of bearing various risks of going unmasked.

No need for all the psychobabble.

The mask requirement is often poorly calibrated. Some food markets have plenty of square footage per customer. Some people can go at a time of day when there are fewer customers. The mask requirement coming from political leadership should reflect that.

Had Trump did that, all the liberals would be burning them like they were bras.

Stupid counterfactuals are not good arguments, not even if they are grammatically correct, which yours isn't.

It was more of an analogy, but whatever. Trump started to close the border early on and the democrats called him a racist. They are only interested n doing the opposite of what he does. Pretty much describes DeBlasio and Cuomo, and see how they fared.

Different psychobabble: Americans know that many foreigners regard them as a bunch of bandits, and although they would deny it, they fear that the foreigners may be right. So they refuse to wear bandit-like masks.

Even more different psychobabble. Many Americans are insecure in their manliness and so won't wear masks for fear they'll appear effeminate.

Freedom to die
Gasping for air.

If you kill yourself
It's suicide,
If you kill another,
It's murder.

One is punishable by
The other isn't.

We know that one of the correlations with being on the Right is body strength. Being a Leftist is strongly correlated with weakness. This makes sense - the weak seek protection from government. They are more likely to take government jobs because they are too afraid to take other people's money themselves and they fear competition. The Right is more likely to have confidence in their own strengths. So to speak.

So when this disease comes along, the government is full of weak people with no spine. The public is much tougher and stronger as a general rule. So the weak enjoy their revenge for High School by bullying the strong. They enjoy the exercise of power they are too weak to engage in openly - it is for our own good you see. The public feels they can cope. The government is afraid they can.

What is worse, the refusal to wear a mask just makes the weak and cowardly nature of the Left obvious. They can see other people are braver and stronger than them. It drives them nuts and so they double down on the bullying. All for our own good of course. Even when it is clearly ineffectual.

High School has a lot to answer for

"Being a Leftist is strongly correlated with weakness." No, the evidence is that this may be true for higher income men but the opposite is true for lower income men and the correlation does not exist for women.

"They are more likely to take government jobs because they are too afraid to take other people's money themselves and they fear competition" -- I thought we were talking about physical strength. Now we are talking about competitive drive in a capitalist economy.

"What is worse, the refusal to wear a mask just makes the weak and cowardly nature of the Left obvious" -- I thought we were talking about competitive drive in a capitalist economy. Now, apparently it is germophobia.

A bunch of alt-right idea salad with some obvious projection mixed in.

The fundamental problem is that masks became associated with protecting the wearer (weakness/cowardliness) rather than protecting the other person (strength, heroicism). Being told to wear mask for your own good is nanny-state paternalism; being to wear a mask to protect others is an appeal to civic virtue.

> being to wear a mask to protect others is an appeal to civic virtue.

Or paternalism and a marginalization and demonization of others via denial of their dignity. Functional well adjusted healthy people don't like to be infantilized and white knighted. But sure let's go back to locking up homosexuals and enslaving blacks for "their own good". Works well with drugs, take a look at the drug war.

Why does a 2-year old have an emotional reaction to putting any clothes on? You’re over-thinking 2nd order cultural norms and under-thinking 1st order cultural norms

Just about every 2 year old, for a few days at least, has an an emotional reaction to putting any clothes on. The reaction being they take them off completely.

"The public health benefits of mask-wearing far exceed the social costs."

This is far from proven. I'm not even sure anyone knows how to calculate it.

The types of masks most of us are using leave the eyes, forehead and upper cheeks unobscured. You can get plenty of clues about a person's emotions from those. You can tell if they are smiling, weeping, frowning, bored or embarrassed. And of course there are audible clues as well, like tone of voice, laughter, etc.

The comments here really show that many Americans are ridiculous...both sides, though the conservatives definitely are crazier...

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